Care as method

I am happy to participate in the workshop “Care as Method” taking place within the Conference “Geographies of Care“. I am looking forward to thinking and discussing with colleagues about the opportunities and challenges of care as method in social research.

The idea of caring (in) Academia is exciting but with care becoming a fashionable and mainstreamed term, I feel we need to remain alert about the risks of care becoming a buzzword, emptied of all its complex, relational and revolutionary elements. An example could be the issue of self-care, and how it is used sometimes in the individual(ized) entrepreneurial logics of the self in neoliberal Academia. (e.g. universities providing mindfulness and yoga classes) signals clearly this trend. To avoid these risks, I consider necessary:

  • To acknowledge all the previous work calling for a more caring Academia, many of which has been made by female (feminist) geographers: Martina Caretta, Victoria Lawson, Lisa Mountz… There is also relevant work on this by researchers using participatory methods and (feminist) anthropologists.
  • To problematize current calls to an “ethics of care” which do not address, previously or simultaneously, the way care is organized, the so-called care work. If demands for incorporating care in the way neoliberal university functions do not deal with structural issues, we are falling again into the tramp of offering individual solutions to structural problems. This will also increase the gap between established researchers who can afford to care for students and colleagues and those in precarious positions. Care takes time, effort and know-how, and if it is to be included into the way things operate within university, we cannot advocate for scholars to do it on their own. It is tremendously unfair to ask colleagues to be more caring with their students and in their virtual teaching for instance, when those colleagues may be pressed by caring demands of dependants at home, not been provided with internet or PC facilities by their universities, and the tenured-clocked not stopped during lockdown, among many other things. This way, scholars are asked, or expected, to do even more of what they were already doing without providing extra support (in terms of extra payment or time for instance).
  • Given how care is a feminized activity, it is important to point at the extra burden that asking for more caring relations within Academia may place on female academics. There is evidence that students and colleagues does not treat equally female and male lecturers/colleagues, with for instance teaching evaluations and expectations are gender-biased according to the instructor gender. Female academics are perceived as more easily approachable and often required to provide “care” for their students in a way males not. We need to overcome understandings of care as personal inclination and start thinking about it as a qualified activity that requires time, effort and skills.
  • To be aware that a caring university requires a caring society. Caring within Academia does not have to imply a trade-off with caring outside Academia, for scholars’ own dependants at home. So, for instance, taking care of dependants in a lockdown time, would not have negative impact on the academic career.